There’s a huge emotional component to weight loss. ~ Carnie Wilson
This week my post was inspired by a lovely human I work with who also happens to be a regular reader of this blog. We were having a conversation about weight loss and I realized there are some things that were worth saying on the subject in relation to happiness. First a tiny rant.
Have you ever noticed that the people who most often give weight loss advice are usually really skinny. It reminds me of these drop dead gorgeous actresses and models who do those no make-up photo shoots in order to show everyone’s natural beauty. They always look good, of course they do, they became famous based their natural beauty, so yes, with makeup they are these flawless beauties. And without makeup, they’re just incredibly gorgeous, so brave of them.
It’s the same attitude when I hear skinny people who say things like, “nothing tastes better than skinny.” First off darlin, have you ever had a cupcake, a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie a slice of real NY pizza? These are the people who can relate, because you know, they once put on 6 pounds over Christmas break and went up to a massive 138 pounds. I mean hell, I can put 6 pounds on at dinner and I haven’t seen 138 since junior high, but yeah, solidarity sister.
Being overweight is unhealthy, we all know this but losing weight is hard. Particularly for someone like me, due to my blood sugar issues, there’s one pathway foodwise and that’s of course a low carb diet. Unfortunately very low carb, the fact is for me to lose weight and get my blood sugar in line, I have to consume less than 60 overall carbs per day and need to get that as close to 20 net carbs per day as possible. This is life with a pathetic pancreas. Of course I’m an Italian-Irish kid from NY who loves Asian food, so life without bread, pasta, potatoes, pizza and rice, well that’s really tough for me. Especially given that nutritionist will tell you to reward yourself for making the right decision. At this point in my life I’ve given up drinking, drugs and womanizing, so I’m left with gambling or eating as a reward system. Gambling is not the best choice and eating is the problem so it makes things tough, but not impossible and I’ve had some success. In 2002 I weighed 250 pounds, which is 65 pounds more than I do today. Sure 65 pounds and twenty years isn’t a massive pace, but it’s consistent progress in the right direction.
Of course we all know that weight loss is most effective when you eat appropriate types and sized meals mixed with regular exercise. Sounds so simple, but like many things it’s the practice that’s hard. And there are things that get in the way, for a lot of us those things are lack of sleep and stress. Lack of sleep does a number of things to your body. First it makes you tired (duh) but being tired makes it easier to be lazy and not exercise that day or order some takeout that’s less healthy than what you would have made for dinner yourself. For emotional eaters like me, lack of sleep reduces your emotional reserves and so a stressful day makes it far more likely that you’ll turn to food for a dopamine burst, and those foods are likely to be high in sugar, fat, salt and calories the things that make us feel good. Lack of sleep also reduces the effectiveness of your body in preventing Cortisol spikes, so to oversimplify it, lower sleep, higher levels of Cortisol, more stress leads to a vicious cycle of you eating to make you feel better. Then of course, after you’ve spent a night eating badly you beat yourself up, which impacts your sleep, adds to your stress and so you exercise less and eat more, vicious.
I’d love to tell you I have a magic bullet for getting out of this cycle, but all I’ve got is pure will and determination. At some point you have to force yourself out of the cycle. And this is where the microhabits I talked about in a previous post can help. It’s not a reasonable expectation that you’ll suddenly start eating perfectly and exercising the full amount you need to. But we often try exactly that then crash and burn and the failure pushes us right back into the cycle. So do yourself a favor and work yourself into gradually keeping in mind the goal is to do a bit better today or this week than you do the next. And most importantly to be consistent about what you’re doing. That’s the best advice I’ve got, anyone selling you easy weight loss is almost certainly lying to you my friends.
There is a question of philosophy that comes up, being less healthy will certainly shorten your life. But if the only way to extend your life is to be miserable all of the time, is it worth it? Most people, citing getting to see their grandkids grow up or other important future milestones, would say yes. But I think, as with all things in life, you need to do a cost-benefit analysis. Years versus misery, and where I typically come out on this analysis is the following. As with many things the middle of the road feels like the right path. to do enough so that you extend your life a bit, while being able to enjoy the time you have. So yes, eat right, exercise at a level you can handle and when you’re at that birthday party have a piece of cake. When you’re on vacation for a week, eat dessert, have that pasta dish and then come back to what you should do and be consistent again after. It’s the formula I use and it seems to strike a good balance between doing what I should, with what I want, and helping me have happy days my friends. Maybe it will work for you too. ~
Been skinny my whole life until Covid hit. My gym offered access to the pool, when the indoor machines were off limits. I’m in year three of aqua aerobics and lap swimming and I haven’t gravitated back indoors because it is so much fun. I have found it to be an enjoyable way to exercise and you don’t even sweat.